Whilst the future continues to look bright for the heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (well, apart from for Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s ‘Quicksilver’…), one anti-hero that doesn’t seem to feature anywhere in Marvel’s plans is Johnny Blaze, AKA The Ghost Rider.
Having been the subject matter of arguably the worst Marvel-related sequel that the studio has put its name to, and consider they had a hand in Punisher: War Zone, Marvel Supremo Kevin Feige recently confirmed that despite the very vocal desire of Nicolas Cage for further sequels, the studio had shelved the character indefinitely.
Now, I don’t believe it’s right to lay the blame entirely at the door of Nic Cage. He more than threw himself into the role, one which he’d campaigned for years, and a studio knows exactly what it’s getting In advance when it hires Cage. It’s not like they thought they were hiring Benedict Cumberbatch and ended up with Vinny Jones.
The Ghost Rider story is amongst the hardest to sell material that Marvel has to play with. And this is a studio that sells talking space raccoons. The recent demise of DC’s ‘Constantine’ series has demonstrated the difficulty to sell a supernatural hero to an audience, and factor in the heavy religious connotations that are also associated with the character it’s no wonder it’s a touch difficult to support a solo franchise.
The plot writing In the film’s lacked the love and care that Marvel Studios have lavished on their other own projects. The CGI was just not at a stage where it could render the character’s effects and motorcycle stunts convincing, and the bad guys were unrecognizable and of little real interest. But despite all that’d I’ve still got a bit of love for Blaze, and with the ever expanding reach of the MCU, surely there’s something they could do to bring him back to our screens? But what format could that take?
5. Keep It Simple
Perhaps the most simplistic option and therefore by definition the least likely, is to give Cage another movie to play with. The man’s pretty much made the role his own, with an immersive commitment to the role, prepared to go eye-poppingly mad onscreen. Who knows; with a more carefully crafted script, perhaps utilizing some of the existing properties in the MCU, and an appropriately selected director attached to the film. It’s possible the crazy swine might be able to produce a winner, third time lucky.
4. Re-Cast and Reboot
Or maybe we do work off the theory that the aforementioned eye-bulging insanity that Cage brings with him is the reason that audiences don’t fully engage with the character. So rip it up and start from scratch.
Cast a younger, up and coming and more age-appropriate actor in the role of Blaze. Go back again to the origins of the character, exploring in more depth the reasons behind his deal with the devil and his struggles with his new found powers. Maybe this time round, cast some bad guys that don’t look like they walked straight off the set of Power Rangers, and hope for more audience engagement.
3. Netflix Origins Series
If anyone appears to know how to fix a previously hammy Marvel representation, it’s those boys and girls over at Netflix. Give them 13 dark and gritty episodes (and a lot of subtly placed Easter-eggs and in jokes) to fully map out who and what Johnny Blaze is and what he represents, then have him fully formed and ready for insertion into the mainstream MCU at the end of it.
He’s a character that’s dark and wronged enough to slot into the current Netflix template, and could be something else new and interesting for poor old Claire Temple to get herself involved in.
2. Time Travel
I suppose they could do worse than to take a leaf out of the ‘Agent Carter’ and ‘First Class’ playbook, and produce a period piece? One of the intriguing aspects of the original Ghost Rider movie was the onscreen presence of Sam Shepherd’s original Rider. How about a series tracking the Ghost Rider through the ages, damned to do the devil’s dirty work throughout different eras, up until the point where he’s in the process of being replaced by Blaze.
You’d have the flexibility to either stick with one timeframe, such as a western, or set the narrative in a modern era. This would use the Rider recounting previous tales, visiting a different time period with each story, and interacting with other Marvel characters through history.
1. Recurring Role
But then, maybe Marvel is right, and much like the Hulk and Punisher before him, the character just struggles too much to sustain a solo project. Pick an appropriate actor, maybe have him carry a recurring role in one of the TV properties, and use him as a supporting actor or cameo in the bigger movies.
With talk of a Thunderbolts TV series being mooted, there’s the opportunity to write him in there straightaway, as he was in the comics. Or if the Doc Strange movies are a success, he could feature in them due to their supernatural overtones.
But, as ever, what do you guys think? Surely there’s a bit of love out for Nic Cage? Sound off below!